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F&B Industry leaders on the impact of the new Michelin Guide Dubai

The introduction of a Michelin star ranking in Dubai this June will dramatically alter the F&B scene

After years of speculation, Dubai finally has a confirmed date for its first-ever Michelin Guide. Launching in June 2022, it’s a welcome addition for the brand’s legion of fans who trust the guide’s recommendations – but what impact will it have on the emirate’s restaurants and their staff? We spoke to six of Dubai’s F&B leaders to get their views.

Bhupender Nath, founder, Passion F&B
“This is a big step for the dining scene in Dubai. We have been waiting for the Michelin guide to come to the UAE for a long time. It is only going to shine a light on UAE as one of the most unique culinary destinations in the world. This will not just increase inbound culinary tourism, but also give a significant push to the economics of the restaurant and hospitality industry. The talent in the city will only be motivated to do better.”

It seems like a great new chapter is beginning for the restaurant industry in the UAE

Mohamad Orfali, chef and founder, Orfali Bros Bistro
Through international awards like the Michelin guide, we discovered emerging and up and coming chefs, restaurants and cuisines all the way from a Buddhist monastery to a small restaurant nestled in the mountains of Spain. As a melting pot of both civilisations and cuisines, Dubai is definitely one to watch, as far as international awards go. [Michelin] will not only drive other restaurants and chefs like myself towards excellence, it will also increase competitiveness and quality to reach the pinnacle. To earn a Michelin star is every chef’s dream and for that dream to come true, we will metaphorically reach for the stars to increase the standard of the culinary scene.”

Gregoire Berger, executive chef,  Ossiano
“The Michelin guide coming to town is the collective achievement of pushing standards and boundaries in the region and something many of us have been working on for some years; raising the bar, driving sustainability and seasonality and developing our craft and personality. The arrival of Michelin will ultimately set higher standards for the city, bringing with it many global talents and finally giving Dubai the position it deserves in the global culinary scene. It’s due.”

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Panchali Mahendra, managing director, Atelier House Hospitality
“Every award brings recognition and revenues, and when the acknowledgment is bestowed from one of the world’s most distinguished and prestigious guides, Michelin, the game is about to change. Having dined in more than 20 Michelin starred restaurants and having two stars within our portfolio of restaurants at Marea and Ai Fiori in New York City, we understand the significance and economic growth that Dubai will witness.

“Dubai is still a young emerging market in terms of F&B and for the longest time have been considered more of a lifestyle social destination, however with this announcement, the gears will shift to more serious gastronome commerce. The competition starts now. To retain stars awarded, venues will have to focus on employee retention, standards and momentum. 

“One of the reasons cities invest and bid for Michelin guides is to attract the luxury market. Dubai already caters to a high percentage of the luxury travel market, and I can’t predict the percentage increase expected per tourist in the food demographic, but Michelin stars will definitely bring traffic and serious food connoisseurs.”

I would suggest, if you already have a vague idea who is getting a star, invest instantaneously in the real estate near that restaurant

Solemann Haddad, executive chef and co-owner, Moonrise
“The arrival of Michelin Guide Dubai is going to completely change the way the world views and understands food in the Middle East. Growing up, there were very few role models for ambitious young chefs like myself to look up to. It was difficult because there was always that voice in my head saying, “No one’s ever done anything big with food here, what makes you think you can do it?” That’s going to change forever. The arrival of the guide is going to create a first generation of established chefs in this region for all the younger generations to look up to. This is going to give so many young people the confidence to pursue a career in our industry, while also removing the negative stigma associated with being a chef in this region.

“Some of the older local awards are known to occasionally be more a product of networking than about the quality of food and service. With the Michelin Guide it’s a different story. They anonymously review outlets based on their five key criteria. A lot of the local awards, I’m sure, are all already in the process of shifting their gears.

“The Michelin Guide’s arrival is going to create a race to the top. Along with the arrival of the other internationally recognised award systems, Michelin is inevitably going to improve the quality of food in this city. There will be no room for complacency, because everyone is going to have to constantly push themselves a lot harder.”

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Neha Mishra, chef and founder, Kinoya
“There are two ways to view this. One from the consumer’s point of view; in a city where the growth of restaurants has been exponential, it’s good for the consumer to be given a well versed survey of what’s considered to be good by a body of people whose core business is to identify the exceptional. Dubai still relies heavily on the views of bloggers who, for the most part, are not qualified journalists or credible critics.

As owners, operators and chefs, we seem to be at the mercy of a vague and dubious community of self-proclaimed critics deciding on the fate of a restaurant 

The Michelin guide will reduce a lot of this noise. From an owner/operator’s point of view, Michelin, as positive as it is, is also a bit of a double-edged sword. We all know and accept that only a handful of restaurants will receive Michelin acknowledgment. On the one hand, the acceleration it can provide an establishment is unparalleled to any other accolade (50 Best Restaurants being the closest in comparison.) I have seen the momentum and trajectory something like 50 Best can give an establishment after Kinoya was listed as One to Watch. However, if I remove the operator in me looking at the bottom line, and instead look from the point of view of the chef in me, I wonder if I’m still having fun in my art with the pressure Michelin brings?

‘Overall, [Michelin] will elevate our way of working, reshuffle our comfort zones and make us rethink whether we’re on the same level as our counterparts. Competition is healthy, but in a city where history has shown that some rise to the top because of their relationships rather than the their end product, we hope this is not another award for all the wrong reasons.”

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